Friday, 18 July 2008

SEO Friendly Downtime

Over the last few weeks I've picked up a thing or two when it comes to website development, and the relationship between this and SEO.

Generally speaking, website downtime (period of unavailability) occurs for one of two reasons, coding errors (unplanned) or system updates (planned).

So how does downtime affect SEO? well, downtime has the same impact on search bots that it has on real users, and it can have lasting effects.

No EntryImage by Irregular Shed via Flickr


Let's take an example, a user types a key phrase into his/her preferred engine, your website has a good ranking and engages the user. He/she proceeds to click on the result only to find out that when the page loads, an error appears indicating that 'the site could not be found'.

This opens up a whole raft of questions, how likely is the user to click on another result for the same site? what is the user's perception of the brand? to mention just a few.

Search Bots behave in a similar way to real world users, and the impact downtime has on these is just as damaging. Should your site be indexed/listed at all if this is unavailable?

But what if you could let search bots know that 'you are aware' that your site is unavailable, and even tell it to come back at a later time when you know the site will be back up and running.

Well you can, with a very simple and 'above board' tactic which is implemented on your server.

The techie name for this practise is 'HTTP Error (503)', which in layman's terms means that instead of the server hosting your site telling robots that the site can not be found, it tells them that the site is 'only down temporarily' and it's expected/planned to be back up at a predefined time and it should revisit the site then.

Http error handling can also be used to redirect bots visiting an obsolete URL through to a new one, and also allows 'geeky' error pages to be converted to 'user friendly' pages containing meaningful and understandable messages.

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1 comment:

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